This is an account of the history of the family of Michael “Mike”
Patrick Donlin, with a particular interest in his son E. M. “Gene”
Donlin and family. Mike Donlin survived the Great Irish Famine as a boy
in County Clare, reported to have lived in part off sea birds and their
eggs. He then emigrated as a young man, settling in Springfield, Massachusetts,
where he married his first wife Bridget Carmody in 1862, and started a
Mr. And Mrs. Donlin and family moved to Lancaster, Wisconsin
after the Civil War, and lived there about a dozen years, until Bridget
died in the Spring of 1877. Mr. Donlin married his second wife Delia Powers
the following Christmas Eve. Mike and Delia moved to Plymouth County,
Iowa in late 1879, soon after their first child, Bessie, was born. It
was here that the rest of their children were born, and where his eldest
son Gene was born and raised.
Mike Donlin had eighteen children between Bridget and
Delia. Thirteen of those children survived childhood. Ten lived to age
45. At least seven of Mike’s children had children of their own.
After the Donlins had their last child, they moved to Hand County, South
Dakota, where Gene would marry Mathilda “Tilly” Schaefer and
raise a family. Gene and Tilly lived the rest of their lives in Hand County.
Our primary purpose in investigating the life of Mike Donlin is to learn
about the ancestry and family history of his son Gene Donlin. We have
a primary interest in Mike Donlin’s second wife Delia Powers, Gene’s
mother. On the other hand, we must contend with two facts:
Mike spent 15 of his 17 years in Massachusetts
and Wisconsin married to Bridget Carmody.
Mike had close connections with the Carmodys in
Wisconsin as well as in Massachusetts, and even later, after leaving
These facts make it clear that to study Mike Donlin, we must study
Bridget Carmody and her family as well. For this reason, we have prepared
a detailed study of Bridget Carmody entitled “The Origins of
Bridget Carmody”, the conclusions and major arguments of which
are also contained herein.
We began this investigation in late 1997 with several unanswered questions
about Mike Donlin:
- Where was he born? (known to be Milltown in County Clare, but there
are two Milltowns in Clare)
- Where did he reside in Ireland?
- Who were his siblings, and what became of them? (names and birth
dates of two sisters known)
- When did he emigrate? (thought to have been in 1857)
- When did he leave Massachusetts? (thought to have been in 1864)
We also began with several unanswered questions about
Mike’s second wife Delia:
- Where in Ireland were her parents from?
- When did her parents emigrate?
- Who were her siblings, and what became of them? (names of two sisters
known: Alice and Nan)
- When did she first arrive in Wisconsin?
Much of what was known when we began was provided by the brothers Ray
and Vince Donlin,
Claire (Donlin) Sweeney, and the records of Bev Donlin.
We began with Bev's records, then spoke with Ray, Vince, and Claire, each
of whom has been very helpful. Ray Donlin provided two very useful documents:
- A copy of the marriage certificate of Mike Donlin and Delia Powers.
- A copy of a research report generated by the Clare Heritage Centre.
- Others contributors include, but are not limited to: Al and Louie
Donlin of Miller, South Dakota, Cletta Geary of Austin, Minnesota,
Esther Hamilton of Merrill, Iowa, Margie Malec of Summerdale, Alabama,
and John C. Mertes of LeMars, Iowa.